Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kayaking and phones that don't swim

Last week Lissa and I left mid week for a camping trip with dear friends of ours.  Our two families have camped together now for more years than I can count.  Our kids have been friends since they were young preschool aged wee ones.

In years past I had all the kids with me but this year marked the first time that it was only Lissa and I going.  KC wanted to stay here in town and complete his week of dance camp.  Chet opted to stay home, saying sleeping on the ground didn't appeal to him at the moment.  Rob had to work.  Lissa was still very excited though--so excited she opted to skip dance camp on Wednesday so we could hit the road early in the morning instead of after dance camp was done. (she was only supposed to be at camp through Wednesday, KC went all week)

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, tree, outdoor and natureSo we did and I loved the time that it was just she and I .  It was such a different dynamic that rarely happens in our large and busy family.   She too, looks so grown up in this picture, that I snapped right when we got to the campground.  Time flies, it really does.

Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of the days we spent together.  I took a number of great ones but on Thursday of our vacation we went kayaking.  First time for both of us. Our friends suggested it and they have kayaked on this particular river before.  We set off and most of the way was really delightful.  It was a six mile journey with lots of stops for the kids to play, snack snap pics, jump in the river, etc.  However as we journeyed on the skies began to darken and I worried that a pop up thunderstorm might be headed our way.  I expressed my concern to my friends who were stopping to do more river play.  We agreed that Lissa and I would journey on ahead (there were many other kayakers from the same outfit on the river so I knew I could not get lost or something weird like that)  I had been paddling for hours and felt relatively confident.  The river was low--I had to pull us across shallow areas numerous times.  So we agreed to meet up at the take out location and Lissa and I set off.  Sure enough shortly after that it began to rain, but thankfully NO thunder.  So we were safe, though damp and kind of chilly.  Lissa was getting tired and doing far less paddling.  But we paddled on and then rounded a corner on the river.  A tree was leaning out over the river and I remember telling Lissa to push us away from that with her paddle as we were headed too close to it.  I don't know if she did or not but the next thing we knew, the tree had ensnared us and we were being pushed backward by it. The kayak began to fill with water as it tilted and we capsized.  Apparently said overhanding tree disguised a rapid little current of water there.  It was not over our heads but it did terrify poor Lissa.  I held onto her and the kayak and all our belongings went down river.  We had life jackets on so we were safe and I was not letting go of her because she was hysterical.   Someone who was playing on the banks a short distance from us saw the mishap and came to assist.  I passed Lissa across to him so that she had hands on her the whole time.  Then I climbed out of the river myself.

Amazingly all our belongings except my  beloved NFL hat and our sunscreen were recovered.  Lissa was not hurt. I got an epic bruise on my right arm but it has never pained me.  We were fine.  Shaken but fine.  My friends arrived to find us all ready loading up back into our kayak ready to paddle the last wee bit to the take out spot.  I felt it was really important for Lissa to see that this could happen and we would not tip over again.  Regardless of my efforts though, she is not feeling any kayak love.

My phone was drenched and died despite my immediately plopping it in a box of rice pilaf in my camping kit when we hit dry land.  Hence my lovely shots are lost and remain only in my memory.  But I remember my tall strong daughter on a giant boulder in the middle of the river. I remember looking down at polished river stones in amazingly clear water, deer prints on the sand bar, and laughter.

The event was also a bit of PSA for life jackets.  I made Lissa wear her jacket and I wore mine.  My friends did not and Lissa was miffed.  I said that sometimes stuff happens and you don't know when it might happen, but that this was a way to make sure we stayed safe.  It was indeed a key part in our overall safety when the accident occurred.  So yes.  Wear the life jacket people.  I am a good swimmer. I am still glad we had them on.  I also learned a bit too late, that Otter box makes a "dry box" that would have kept my phone safe and dry.  I'll have the "phone life jacket" next time too!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer musings

I have been reminded often this past season to live life deeply, and to remember that there are not always second chances. A tragic murder where I work took place.  A domestic violence situation that flared suddenly into tragedy with a young woman winding up dead.  Her life was snuffed out and many others were also forever damaged by this.  I remain forever grateful that long ago when my family member was involved in an abusive relationship, that she eventually fled.

It is not easy.  It took six years.  Six years of late night calls, tearful conversations and more.  I had given her a debit card with enough money for an emergency run to a hotel room if and when things ever got dangerous.  She would always assure me that things were never that bad, that he was sorry.  Things would change. She would change. He would stop drinking. Things would be better when he got a new job and was given credit for the amazing work he did.  The litany was endless.

I was very young- between 20 and 26 during the years this took place.  It used to make me so intensely angry.  I could not understand how she could let this happen.  How her love for this man could supplant what seemed to me just common sense.  I am a different person than she.  I am a martial artist. I absolutely would not for any reason stay in a relationship where I was afraid or had been harmed.

For me, the hardest part of those six years was staying in relationship with my sister while she stayed with the abuser.  Not that he tried to distance us, he didn't. (which is an anomaly in abusive situations.)  But watching her stay where she was unsafe, listening to the nonsense come from her about why it happened--those were the hardest things.  I would offer to pay for the divorce.  I would offer help in securing her own safe apartment.  I would offer to help get her a car so she could get a job once she was on her own.

And it still took six years.  With a persistant and steady family support, it took six years to leave. It wasn't about me.  It was about her believing she could do it.  Finally when her young daughter was threatened, she left.  I did what I said I would do.  She finished her education and got a good job.  Her life is different and she is alive today, a mother and a grandmother, and married to a man who loves her and treats her with kindness.

The fall out from this incident, and another in our city just a few weeks before culminated in a domestic violence vigil at the apartment community where I work.  Experts who can help those experiencing domestic violence spoke.  Many who know work as advocates have previously experienced the horror of dv first hand.  Their stories were chilling and yet they were also stories of hope.   At the end, under a nearly full moon, we lit tiny battery candles and placed them in the grass outside.  We sand Amazing Grace.  We said their names, so that they will not be forgotten, so that they will be remembered as more than that final act against their defenseless bodies.

I was very emotionally depleted by the end of the vigil on Friday evening.  But this weekend has been so healing and restorative.  Saturday I started the morning with yoga.  Then spent the day doing errands and chores.  I helped my wife with two of her cleaning contracts. And today, was just amazingly special.

As a two mom family, Mothers Day has always been about my wife.  I help guide the cooking and festivities to honor and celebrate all she does.  When the kids were very young, there needed to be help in making gifts, etc.  Now there is still coordinating that has to happen.  So long story short, we don't do anything to honor me on that day.

Instead, at some random date when we can get together, we celebrate Ooma's Day. And today was that day!  It started with tea and blueberry muffins in bed and continued with a hike up a local mountain.  There were gifts in there too, beautiful thoughtful gifts. But what I treasure the most was todays hike together.  We have not hiked much in recent years. My wife has some mobility issues caused by her frequent ankle breaks.  So it was really special to hike on a stellar weather day.  We noshed on the summit and then made our way back down the mountain to our car.  I feel restored, my well has been replenished and I am ready to face the new week.